HC Deb 20 November 2000 vol 357 cc12-3
7. Helen Jones (Warrington, North)

What assessment he has made of the contribution of the fire services community programmes to crime reduction strategies; and if he will make a statement. [137451]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mike O'Brien)

I welcome increasing fire service involvement in community programmes, crime reduction strategies, in the reduction of accidental fires and injury and in issues connected with arson, hoax calls and juvenile fire setting.

Helen Jones

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. May I commend to him the project run by the Cheshire fire service at Blackbrook in my constituency where, working with the residents, it has trained young people to check smoke alarms? It also arranges to sell batteries for smoke alarms cheaply. As a result, there has been a reduction the number of fires and in the number of hoax calls and, according to the local school, a vast improvement in the behaviour of the young people with whom it worked. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the people involved in the project and will he undertake to consider how, as a matter of urgency, such good practice can be encouraged elsewhere?

Mr. O'Brien

I shall indeed. The Government welcome the Blackbrook community safety initiative. Many brigades will wish to follow that model. The fire service as a whole is to be commended for the range of community-based initiatives that it undertakes across the country to address the twin problems of fire safety in the home and disaffected youth.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

Although I welcome what the Minister said in praise of firemen at every level in every part of the country, does he recognise that chief fire officers and chief executives are telling us that many of the problems with the strategies are caused by far too much bureaucracy before they are set in place? Does he recognise that the same problem of anti-social behaviour orders was raised earlier by his Back Benchers and has been repeatedly raised by Back Benchers of all parties to the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng)? People—including fire officers—want action; we do not want strategies that are bogged down in bureaucracy.

Mr. O'Brien

It is a great surprise to hear the hon. Gentleman say that because, as I understood it, he has been calling for anti-social behaviour orders to be torn up. He has said that he does not accept that they are a good thing, but they are a key component of our fight to deal with a problem that the previous Government failed to address. We are tackling anti-social behaviour, which is what the people elected us to do.